2021 Test Drive 1

I took a 90-minute test drive of the chase vehicle and the technology onboard

Here’s a list of issues I’ve found:

      1. The camera mounts easily loosened up. Fortunately, the camera “droop” did no damage to the cameras.

  1. The GPS puck is seen by Franson GPSgate, but it’s output is not seen by GRlevel3 or other applications.
  2. The dashcam needed to be tested beyond seeing it power up and display a video of the road ahead.
  3. The cabling clean-up has yet to begin, but should be a fast task. Last year’s set up is unchanged, except for the mysterious disappearance of the original dashcam micro-USB cable. I replaced it today, but have some disconnected cables dangling.
  4. The rear seat’s Android tablet needs to be re-installed.
  5. Luggage space needs to be reclaimed. It’s full of bric-a-brack at the moment.
  6. The iPhone bracket need to have the stabilizer arm glued into place. It came off in my hand! WTF??
  7. The antenna cluster needs to be road tested. It was ‘indoors’ today. One antenna needs to be glued to its mag-mount.

All this amounts to another weekend afternoon spent with this new ‘to do’ list.

PROLOGUE – 19 April 2012

Wow! I hate packing at the last minute.

I hate the thought that some piece of gear will not be working and I’d have to repair or replace it in the last 48 hours before departure. The lion’s share of my technological toys are specialized enough that a last minute replacement would mean a lot of stress, potentially going out-of-town for the replacements, and unexpected expense.

Odd as this may sound, I’m much more afraid of not being able to record a good storm than of the storm itself; I respect the weather, but fear making the mistake of waiting too long to check my equipment before the trip.

Work has been busy and a bit stressful. I’m very relieved to get out of there for 10 days, even though lots of work will be waiting for me when I return.

Now that all is in order, I can finally relax, just in time for a 6-hour nap before I head to the airport.

15 May 2011 – “The Air Up There”

I left the house on time, thanks to Alfonse, my limo driver, arriving a tad early. His warm, boyish smile almost made me forget we left at 5:30 am. 45 minutes later and $60+tip poorer, I was at the terminal at O’Hare. Collecting my E-ticket, taking my two (carry-on!) bag through TSA inspection, and getting on the plane were effortless.

I passed the time waiting for the plane conversing with this young man (20-something) about such topics as the flood in Louisiana, my his to Maui the previous week, Michael Jackson, basketball, and storm-chasing.

Flight went well. Took some cloud photos; looking at them during on the flight, I thought I’d toss most of them away (due to poor quality), but changed my mind when I saw them on the computer after the Thunder-Grizzlies basketball game. (“Let’s Go, Thunder!” billboard dot the OKC landscape, by the way. They sure love the NBA here in OKC!) It was great to get aerial cloude photos; I hardly ever see clouds from and vantage point but underneath. It’s great to look at “the air up there.”. Here it is:

I had Italian food at Portfino’s (Reno & Meridian, a few miles north of the hotel), Loved the Chicken Caccitore, minestrone soup, and the tiramisu. Service was good, though I was unclear that my soup was a substitute for my salad.

After lunch, I spent some time (and money) at Shepler’s Western Wear (down the street 2 blocks from the hotel). I finally broke down and bought my cowgirl boots (to be shipped home) and a new black cowgirl hat (for the trip), I love shopping there: the selection is authentic and huge, and there are real bargains if you look hard enough. (I am concerned about the boots arriving before I return. maybe I can email Stuart and have them delivered to *his* place in my absence.)

Tried to find a high-end photo supply store (to get a 37mm UV protection lens for the JVC camcorder, but no luck. Tried the Walmart and Best Buy near McArthur and I-40, but to no avail. I will have to soap the thread on the 30.5-37mm step-up ring, to avoid another ‘stuck lens (like I experienced yesterday). “Proceed with caution ” applied here.

Dinner was the ribs and chicken combo at Charleston’s, a really nice eatery located across the street from the motel. A 5-star taste at a 3-star price!

I was in a really good mood over the Thunder advancing to the NBS Western Conference Finals. The Bulls also beat the Miami Heat (as they had during the regular season). I was thinking how cool it would be to have two talented young NBA teams (Bulls and Thunder) face each other in the NBA Finals.


Well, another season is upon us. So far this year is looking ominously like 1997: I waited until the bottom half of May and spectacular storms (like the EF-5 tornado that flattened Greensburg, KS) happened in the top half of May. In 1997, the atmospheric pattern fell apart, so there was nothing to chase. What’s worse is that the tour operator I signed up with neither offered to travel anyhow, nor refund my $500 deposit. I even went as far as sending the attorney general of Oklahoma after him (to no avail), as did another prospective storm tourist from New York (who was also cheated).Frown

It seems a trade-off for my rewarding job in downtown Chicago is a loss of flexibility in vacation scheduling, a definite handicap for the storm enthusiast. If I had the ability to trade vacation weeks on about a week’s notice, I would probably have more opportunities to look for the big storms. C’est la vie! If I had a job with that kind of flexibility, I might not be able to afford to chase often either. Like so much in life, we are both victors and victims of our compromises.

This year my planned chase vacation was to be a 10-day expedition with Scott Weberpal and three other chasers he invited to join us. I provide the van (and technology in the van) in exchange for a price break. I have also committed to do he lion’s share of the driving, allowing Scott to relax a bit and concentrate on forecasting and watching the sky. (I’ll watch, too, as well as form my own forecast, but Scott wll be the tie-breaker when our predictions disagree. His experience certainly justufies this approach.)

I have spent nearly every waking hour of non-work time working on getting the van and its technology in top shape. Over a hundred hours later, after much blood, sweat and tears, the van is ready to chase, and so am I. Tongue out

The communications gear is nestled in a new console, the new weather instruments are ready for the road, the broadband internet connection and laptop are working admirably, and the van had new brakes and tires ready for the open road.

Saturday (26 May 2007) looks like a day with a marginal chance to produce storms in eastern Iowa, and Scott is willing to meet me along the way, if conditions look favorable for good storms by late morning or early afternoon.